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Paying a steep price

Last week, the world of college basketball was shaken to the core by the announcement of a three-year federal investigation concerning allegations of corruption and fraud in the sport.

In a nutshell — and it is far-reaching and complicated case — investigators charge that individuals, including a former NBA referee and a current NBA agent, as well at least one sneaker company (Adidas) funneled money through college coaches to AAU coaches and player’s families to get those players into programs sponsored by the sneaker company.

Honestly, I don’t have the space required to give a more detailed description of the charges. I’m not sure many newspapers can, given the sheer volume of evidence that already exists and the evidence to come.

On Thursday, it was announced that Nike had been subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s office in connection to the investigation but it was not clear as to why. As of this printing, Nike has not been named as a target of the investigation but I’m cynical enough to believe that they — and all of their schools — very well could be before all is said and done.

It seems with each passing day as more information comes to light, the investigation has created one major question: Is this just a college basketball probe or does it extend to college football as well?

I realize it is not out of the realm of possibility that John Calapari or Nick Saban could be mentioned in the federal probe but before you break out the victory dance, remember Tennessee is a Nike school. It’s a known fact the company has an influence on the athletic department. Nike is the reason Tennessee dropped the “Lady Vols” brand to begin with.

All of that is irrelevant at this point — I’ll get back to that in a minute.

This is not a matter of rival schools getting what you think they have coming.

This is not the joke that is the NCAA.

This is the federal government.

They’re not going to sanction a program. They’re going to put people behind bars and end careers forever.

Rick Pitino has been fired and will likely never coach again. At this point he is likely too toxic for television work as an analyst. Tom Jurich, who was effectively fired as athletic director at Louisville on Wednesday, has likely guided his last college program.

It’s very possible Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl will suffer the same fate. There’s going to be a litany of coaches and athletic directors who meet a similar end before this thing is over.

I’m curious to see how many of them are willing to talk in exchange for a lighter sentence. Rest assured, they will be offered deals and many of the accused will happy to accept them.

This is no different than a racketeering probe. Millions — perhaps billions (if you include television money) — of dollars are at stake for universities.

This is only a guess on my part but the reason Nike wasn’t mentioned on Tuesday was that the feds have no evidence against them or more likely, only circumstantial evidence against them, hence the warning by U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, “It’s better for you to call us than for us to be calling you when we’re ready to charge you.”

It has all the earmarks of investigators looking for some disgruntled person to step forward with evidence. If that is the case, I’m sure they will find several people. When this kind of money is being talked about, there is sure to be someone, somewhere, who did not get as much as they felt they were due.

And apparently this has been going on for sometime because I can’t watch a sports show on any network where some broadcaster or college basketball insider wasn’t aware of these things happening.

That bothers me.

If you knew it was taking place and you knew it was wrong, why did you not speak up?

I already know the answer.

Your network — be it ESPN, Turner Broadcasting, or CBS — has billions tied up in covering college basketball. It was to your advantage to not speak up about what was taking place. Now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, bragging about your knowledge of the wrongdoing implicates you as well.

In essence, you’re part of the problem and have no moral high ground.

As the federal investigation continues, the surprised (?) but righteous NCAA will go to work to root out corruption.

I’m sorry. I can’t say that without laughing.

Here’s what I think will come of the NCAA investigations concerning probation, postseason bans, and even the death penalty: Nothing.

The NCAA will do nothing to any of these programs because the Power Five conferences (SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, and PAC 12) will form a new governing body with recruiting and even academic rules far less stringent than the ones the NCAA currently claims to enforce.

Those schools will also start paying college athletes — after they reach an agreement with the NBA and the NFL. In exchange, those players will have to stay in school at least three years.

“One and done” is nearly over.

The NCAA as you know it, is finished. They will still exist just as the NAIA exists, but they will no longer be relevant to the national conversation.

Born of corruption, a brave new world is coming for college athletics.

Maybe this one will be honest.